Known primarily as a war comic writer, Sgt. Rock creator Robert Kanigher delivered a very significant addition to the pantheon of DC comic book super heroes with his Silver Age heroes, the Metal Men.
Introduced in the popular Showcase Presents anthology series in 1962, the robotic marvels called the Metal Men debuted. Composed of precious and base metals, the Metal Men were intelligent creations thanks to the creation of the responsometer dreamed up by the brilliant pipe smoking Doc Will Magnus. Each of his creations took on a personality that mirrored in some ways the qualities of the metal that it was composed of. Gold was a noble and brave man, Iron was tough, Mercury was spirited and always pointing out how useful he was due his metallurgic abilities, Lead was a bit dim but strong, Tin was insecure and Platinum was a beautiful female robot who doted on her creator. Together the Metal Men were a competent team able to tackle nearly any menace. Interestingly, Platinum proved to be far too emotional and clingy for Magnus’ taste and her personality was rewritten.
Artists Ross Andru, Joe Staton and Walt Simonson have all lent a hand at providing a distinctive look to the Metal Men who appear so stiff and robotic yet alternately full of vivid personality.
The Metal Men were a cult hit and moved on to star in Brave and the Bold in addition to appearing in several monthly series throughout the years. The quirky personalities of the individual characters combined with their unique super powers proved the team to be an oddball success in the 1960′s where teams such as the Doom Patrol and X-Men were paving the way for misfit super heroes. Seeing Lead hammer himself into a protective coating for Iron and launched at an enemy as a cannon ball was bizarre enough. Seeing Gold fortify Tin into a durable strand of thread capable of containing a threat was even stranger. A product of the mad Silver Age of comics, the Metal Men went more or less unnoticed in the 1960′s aside from sporadic appearances here and there. Eventually eclipsing their very creator, the Metal Men surpassed his wildest expectations.
Battling menaces such as the walking vat of chemicals known as Chemo, the Metal Men blazed a trail of glory in the four color printed realm.
The team was recently revived as part of the year-long weekly series 52 in which a medicated yet mad Doc Magnus rebuilt the Metal Men for active service. Magnus had since been re-introduced as a brilliant robotocist responsible for the repair of Doom Patroller Cliff Steele alias Robotman. Currently serving as the back-up feature to the monthly Doom Patrol series, the Metal Men have been retooled and redesigned by fan favorite writer Keith Giffen. The latest iteration of the characters has proven so popular that they have dwarfed the headliner in the popularity department. As part of an initiative to provide readers with more bang for their $3.99, DC Comics has beefed up their monthly titles with additional back-up stories which have also kept several properties in print or in the case of the Metal Men brought back a beloved family of characters for a new audience.
The future of the Metal Men is as unsure as their past but if the current success is any indication we can expect to see these heroes around for years to come. I just want to see a Metal Men animated movie in my lifetime.